December 22, 2011

MB0042 [Managerial Economics] Set2 Q5

Q5. Explain briefly the phases of business cycle. Through what phase did the world pass in 2009-10.

Basically, a business cycle has only two parts- expansion and contraction or prosperity and depression. Burns and Mitchell observe that peaks and troughs are the two main mark-off points of a business cycle. The expansion phase starts from revival and includes prosperity and boom. Contraction phase includes recession, depression and trough. In between these two main parts, we come across a few other interrelated transitional phases. In its broader perspective, a business cycle has five phases. They are as follows.

1. Depression, contraction or downswing
It is the first phase of a trade cycle. It is a protracted period in which business activity is far below the normal level and is extremely low. According to Prof. Haberler depression is a “state of affairs in which the real income consumed or volume of production per head and the rate of employment are falling and are sub-normal in the sense that there are idle resources and unused capacity, especially unused labor”.

This period is characterized by:
a. A sharp reduction in the volume of output, trade and other transactions.
b. An increase in the level of unemployment.
c. A sharp reduction in the aggregate income of the community especially wages and profits. In a few cases, profits turns out to be negative.
d. A drop in prices of most of the products and fall in interest rates.
e. A steep decline in consumption expenditure and fall in the level of aggregative effective demand.
f. A decline in marginal efficiency of capital and hence the volume of investment.
g. Absence of incentives for production as the market has become dull.
h. A low demand for Loanable funds, surplus cash balances with banks leading to a contraction in the creation of bank credit.
i. A high rate of business failures.
j. An increasing difficulty in returning old debts by the debtors. This forces them to sell their inventories in the market where prices are already falling. This deepens depression further.
k. A decline in the level of investment in stocks as it becomes less attractive and less profitable. This reduces the deposits with the banks and other financial institutions leading to a contraction in bank credit.
l. A lot of excess capacity exists in capital and consumer goods industries which work much below their capacity due to lack of demand.

During depression, all construction activities come to a more or less halting stage. Capital goods industries suffer more than consumer goods industries. Since costs are ‘sticky’ and do not fall as rapidly as prices, the producers suffer heavy losses. Prices of agricultural goods fall rapidly than industrial goods. During this period purchasing power of money is very high but the general purchasing power of the community is very low. Thus, the aggregate level of economic activity reaches its rock bottom position. It is the stage of trough. The economy enters the phase of depression, as the process of depression is complete. It is also called, the period of slump.

During this period, there is disorder, demoralization, dislocation and disturbances in the normal working of the economic system. Consequently, one can notice all-round pessimism, frustration and despair. The entire atmosphere is gloomy and hopes are less. It is a period of great suffering and hardship to the people. Thus, it is the worst and most fearful phase of the business cycle. USA experienced depression two times, between 1873- 1879 and 1929 – 1933.

2. Recovery or revival
Depression cannot last long, forever. After a period of depression, recovery starts. It is a period where in, economic activities receive stimulus and recover from the shocks. This is the lower turning point from depression to revival towards upswing. Depression carries with itself the seeds of its own recovery. After sometime, the rays of hope appear on the business horizon. Pessimism is slowly replaced by optimism. Recovery helps to restore the confidence of the business people and create a favorable climate for business ventures.

The recovery may be initiated by the following factors:
a) Increase in government expenditure so as to increase purchasing power in the hands of consumers.
b)    Changes in production techniques and business strategies.
c)    Diversification in investments or Investment in new regions.
d)    Explorations and exploitation of new sources of energy etc.
e)    New innovations- developing new products or services, new marketing strategy etc.

As a result of these factors, business people take more risks and invest more. Low wages and low interest rates, low production costs, recovery in marginal efficiency of capital etc induce the business people to take up new ventures. In the early phase of the revival, there is considerable excess capacity in the economy so, the output increases without a proportionate increase in total costs. Repairs, renewals and replacement of plants take place. Increase in government expenditure stimulates the demand for consumption goods, which in its turn pushes up the demand for capital goods. 

Construction activity receives an impetus. As a result, the level of output, income, employment, wages, prices, profits, start rising. Rise in dividends induce the producers to float fresh investment proposals in the stock market. Recovery in stock market begins. Share prices go up. Optimistic expectations generate a favorable climate for new investment. Attracted by the profits, banks lend more money leading to a high level of investment. The upward trends in business give a sort of fillip to economic activity. Through multiplier and acceleration effects, the economy moves upward rapidly. It is to be noted that revival may be slow or fast, weak or strong; the wave of recovery once initiated begins to feed upon itself. Generally, the process of recovery once started takes the economy to the peak of prosperity.

3. Prosperity or Full-employment
The recovery once started gathers momentum. The cumulative process of recovery continues till the economy reaches full employment. Full employment may be defined as a situation where in all available resources are fully employed at the current wage rate. Hence, achieving full employment has become the most important objective of all most all economies. Now, there is all round stability in output, wages, prices, income, etc. According to Prof. Haberler “Prosperity is a state of affair in which the real income consumed, produced and the level of employment are high or rising and there are no idle resources or unemployed workers or very few of either”. 

During the period of prosperity an economy experiences-
a. A high level of output, income, employment and trade.
b. A high level of purchasing power, consumption expenditure and effective demand.
c. A high level of Marginal Efficiency of Capital and volume of investment.
d. A period of mild inflation sets in leading to a feeling of optimism among businessmen and industrialists.
e. An increase in the level of inventories of both inputs and outputs.
f. A rise in Interest Rate.
g. A large expansion in bank credit and financial institutions lend more money to business men.
h. Firms operate almost at full capacity along with its production possibility frontier.
i. Share markets give handsome gains to investors as dividends and share prices go up. Consequently, idle funds find their way to productive investments.
j. A state of exuberance and enthusiasm exists in business community.
k. Industrial and commercial activity, both speculative and non-speculative show remarkable expansion.
l. There is all round expansion, development, growth and prosperity in the economy. Everyone seems to be happy during this period.

The USA experienced the longest period of prosperity between 1923 &29.

4. Boom or Over full Employment or Inflation
The prosperity phase does not stop at full employment. It gives way to the emergence of a boom. It is a phase where in there will be an artificial and temporary prosperity in an economy. Business optimism stimulates further investment leading to rapid expansion in all spheres of business activities during the stage of full employment, unutilized capacity gradually disappears. Idle resources are fully employed. Hence, rise in investment can only mean increased pressure for the available men and materials. Factor inputs become scarce commanding higher remuneration. This leads to a rise in wages and prices. Production costs go up. Consequently, higher output is obtained only at a higher cost of production.

Once full employment is reached, a further increase in the demand for factor inputs will lead to an increase in prices rather than an increase in output and income. Demand for Loanable funds increases leading to a rise in interest rates. Now there will be hectic economic activity. Soon a situation develops in which the number of jobs exceed the number of workers available in the market.

Such a situation is known as overfull employment or hyper-employment. During this phase:
a. Prices, wages, interest, incomes, profits etc. move in the upward direction.
b. MEC raises leading to business expansion.
c. Business people borrow more and invest. This adds fuel to the fire. The tempo of boom reaches new heights.
d. There is higher output, income and employment. Living standards of the people also increases.
e. There is higher purchasing power and the level of effective demand will reach new heights.
f. There is an atmosphere of “over optimism” all round, which results in over investment. Cost of living increases at a rate relatively higher than the increase in household incomes.
e. It is a symptom of the end of prosperity phase and the beginning of recession.

The boom carries with it the gems of its own destruction. The prosperity phase comes to an end when the forces favoring expansion becomes progressively weak. Bottlenecks begin to appear. Scarcity of factor inputs and rise in their prices disturb the cost calculations of the entrepreneurs. Now the entrepreneurs realize that they have over stepped the mark and become over cautious and their over-optimism paves the way for their pessimism. Thus, prosperity digs its own grave. Generally the failure of a company or a bank bursts the boom and ushers in a recession. USA experienced prosperity between 1923 and 1929.

5. Recession – A turn from prosperity to Depression
The period of recession begins when the phase of prosperity ends. It is a period of time where in the aggregate level of economic activity starts declining. There is contraction or slowing down of business activities. After reaching the peak point, demand for goods decline. Over investment and production creates imbalance between supply and demand. Inventories of finished goods pile up. Future investment plans are given up. Orders placed for new equipments and raw materials and other inputs are cancelled. Replacement of worn out capital is postponed. The cancellation of orders for the inputs by the producers of consumer goods creates a chain reaction in the input market. Incomes of the factor inputs decline this creates demand recession.

In order to get rid of their high inventories, and to clear off their bank obligations, producers reduce market prices. In anticipation of further fall in prices, consumers postpone their purchases. Production schedules by firms are curtailed and workers are laid-off. Banks curtail credit. Share prices decline and there will be slackness in stock and financial market. Consequently, there will be a decline in investment, employment, income and consumption. Liquidity preference suddenly develops. Multiplier and accelerator work in the reverse direction. Unemployment sets in the capital goods industries and with the passage of time, it spreads to other industries also. The process of recession is complete. The wave of pessimism gets transmitted to other sectors of the economy. The whole economic system thereby runs in to a crisis.

Failure of some business creates panic among businessmen and their confidence is shaken. Business pessimism during this period is characterized by a feeling of hesitation, nervousness, doubt and fear. Prof. M. W. Lee remarks, “A recession, once started, tends to build upon itself much as forest fire. Once under way, it tends to create its own drafts and find internal impetus to its destructive ability”. Once the recession starts, it becomes almost difficult to stop the rot. It goes on gathering momentum and finally converts itself in to a full- fledged depression, which is the period of utmost suffering for businessmen. Thus, now we have a full description about a business cycle. The USA experienced one of the severe recessions during 1957-58.

Lord Over stone describes the course of business cycle in the following words – “A state of quiescence (inert or silent) – next improvement – growing confidence – prosperity – excitement – overtrading – convulsion – pressure – distress – ending – again in quiescence”

A detailed study of the various phases of a business cycle is of paramount importance to the management. It helps the management to formulate various anti-cyclical measures to be taken up to check the adverse effects of a trade cycle and create the necessary conditions for ensuring stability in business.

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